The lineup of 2023 AAS Winners has been announced, and in the edibles category it includes two national winners and three regional winners. For those who might not be familiar with it, All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties of flowers and edibles in trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada. I grow quite a few AAS Winners in my garden every year, and I always look forward to trying the new winners here at Happy Acres. There are two peppers, one tomato, one melon and one winter squash that made the Winners list for 2023 as well as six ornamentals.
Cayenne Pepper Wildcat is a hybrid variety pepper with extra-large, 2-3 ounce fruits and a mild heat level (500-1500 Scoville units). The plants are high-yielding and reach a height of 36-42 inches. The 8” long fruits are “straighter than traditional cayenne fruits with a great smoky flavor and peppery sweetness and a mild pungency”. I often find cayenne peppers too hot for my tastes, but this one will be worth trying for the promise of less heat and good productivity. Seeds for this variety will be available from Park Seeds, though at this time they are sold out. It’s too bad since I would have liked to grow it this year!
UPDATE: seeds for this variety are now available from Totally Tomatoes as well as Park Seeds
The other pepper to win in 2023 is the jalapeno San Joaquin. This is a determinate type jalapeno that sets most of its fruit in a short window of time. That should make it great for canning, pickling, and in my case fermenting into hot sauce. The plants are bushy and get 30″ high, and are suitable for growing in large containers. The thick-walled fruits have a hint of heat at 2500-6000 Scoville units. One judge noted “Produced almost twice the peppers as the comparisons” while another judge observed they “Loved this variety’s mild heat and large fruits that did not crack”. Bred by Bejo Seeds, seeds for this winner will be available soon.
UPDATE: seeds for this variety are now available from Vermont Bean Seed Company
Regional Winner Zenzei Tomato is an early-maturing, indeterminate Roma type hybrid tomato that promises high yields. This regional winner produces plum tomatoes in 70-80 days after setting out transplants. In trials it compared favorably with Plum Regal and Granadero, producing 4-5 inch fruits that are perfect for canning and freezing. Zenzei has a good disease-resistance package, and is reported to be less prone to blossom end rot. The vigorous plants will require staking or caging for support. Bred by Bayer/Seminis Seeds, seeds for it will also be available soon.
The squash Sweet Jade is a single-serving sized hybrid kabocha squash that is ready to harvest in about 95 days. Sweet Jade proved itself in the AAS Trials with its high yields and good holding capability. Each fruit weighs between 1-2 pounds with a sea-green skin and silvery stripes. Sweet Jade’s deep orange flesh is dry yet sweet and very flavorful whether roasted, baked, or pureed. One judge noted “Entry has strong yields, attractive shape and color, and good flesh quality and volume per fruit”. Bred by Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and seeds are available from there.
Rubyfirm watermelon is a small, personal-sized melon with fruits about the size of a cantaloupe. It promises sweet and crisp flesh with minimal seeds, and compared favorably in trials with Sweetie Pie and Mini Love. The melons weigh in at the 3-5 pound range, and grow on vining type plants. Each Rubyfirm plant will yield 2-3 fruits, bearing in 65 days from setting out transplants or 80 days after direct seeding. Seeds will be available soon.
I want to mention a few of the ornamental Winners as well. Coleus Premium Sun Coral Candy is the first seed coleus to ever win the coveted AAS Winner designation. Coral Candy features multicolored foliage on a compact plant. That should make it perfect for growing in containers and hanging baskets, as well as for in-ground plantings. The narrow, serrated leaves gracefully drape down the mounded plants, and AAS Judges observed that it holds its color well even when grown in full sun. This variety was entered into and trialed in the container trial meaning it’s perfect for small space gardens. In trials it also held up nicely in the fall and had minimal flowers.
Salvia Blue By You is a perennial flowering sage that features rich blue flowers that bloom up to two weeks earlier than the comparisons. It’s hardy in zones 4b – 9a, with both excellent winter hardiness and heat tolerance. The 20-22 inch plants are covered in bright blue blossoms from late spring into fall, and if spent blooms are removed you’ll get repeat blooms throughout the season. It was a favorite of hummingbirds and butterflies, and not favored by deer or rabbits.
One more ornamental I want to mention is a Shasta Daisy (Leucanthemum) called Carpet Angel. It’s the first ever groundcover Shasta Daisy that grows to a height of 6 inches and spreads to 20 inches wide. Well-branched plants are covered in “beautiful pure white blooms that look like angels dancing over a carpet of dark green foliage.” Carpet Angel is hardy in zones 4a-10b, and will be available in plant form only from garden retailers.
I hope you have enjoyed this review of a few of the 2023 AAS vegetables winners. For more information about AAS Winners check out:
- Growing the 2016 AAS Winners
- The 2018 All-America Selections Winners
- 2019 All-America Selections Winners
- 2020 All-America Selections Winners
- 2022 All-America Selections Winners
- My Favorite AAS Veggies
All photos are courtesy of All-America Selections.